All Lives Matter, Don’t They?

Keep coming back to this point, being missed by the more naïve in politics – mentioning no names, Lozza. But the ever thoughtful David Baddiel makes this point in the Labour / Corbyn / Anti-Semitism row:

Spot on. As natural language statements, …

    • Black lives matter / Jewish lives matter / Anti-semitism is wrong
    • All lives matter / All races matter / All racism is wrong

… are all clearly true statements. The question is why, when is it appropriate to say or use these expressions,

    1. in natural discourse.
    2. in hashtags / public memes supporting those sentiments and general positive rights / action campaigns to rectify the specific prejudiced imbalance, in our behaviours.
    3. in direct reference to specific political campaigning organisations.

In  natural discourse (1), the question of why & when appropriate is really about the objective of the discourse. Simply stating truths because you can is basic, but trivial in terms of achieving progressive outcomes. (Same applies to questions of Islamism/Free-Expression, LGBT/TERF debates, etc.)

Making such natural statements is always a matter of political choice, as well as their truth value. So the reason to state them is matter of believing specific disadvantaged groups (2) do need to be recognised in behaviours that restore balance … or not?

However (3) is quite different. It’s quite possible to sincerely support and act on (2) and to sincerely not support the political campaigning organisation that has acquired or dominated the particular (#BLM) hashtag or meme. Almost invariably the issues are complex and political campaign groups too often reduce their voice to politically correct slogans.

“Je Suis Charlie” is great as an assertion of free-expression against Islamist violence, in support of its immediate victims, but has little to do with resolving Islamism in society.

Supporting LGB and Trans rights is natural and necessary, but the polarisation of (eg) Pink and Rainbow/Pride organisations against nuanced detail objection on “TERF” female rights is unhelpful. (The whole Michael Cashman / BBC journalist guidance vs political campaign support is the next one to break? It’s about the specific political campaign affiliation, not about supporting enlightened takes on the issues – the Beeb will probably shoot itself in the foot by being too PC to explain that clearly, but they’re not wrong.)

All lives matter / Every life is sacred is totally distorting value judgements around Covid deaths. Judgements between civilised treatment of living humans – patients and everyday citizens living life – and long term expectations about populations and normal death rates and lifespans.

People asserting their right to say all & every are not being helpful to humanity. In fact they are – perversely – driving us to a kind of PC, lowest-common-denominator take on “all” issues.

2 thoughts on “All Lives Matter, Don’t They?”

  1. Garton-Ash makes a similar distinction in terms of two questions:

    1. How free should speech be?
    2. How should free speech be?

    He notes that most of the modern literature on free speech is devoted to the first of these questions. However, the second, regarding with what style, conventions and mutual understandings, should we choose to express something (or not) has become, at a time when information technology has erased many of those often tacit assumptions, equally, if not more, pressing.

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